Olivia Rodrigo is well-known for writing songs that lead to rumors. A lot of her entire first album, “Sour,” was rumored to be about her “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” costar Joshua Bassett, but Rodrigo and Bassett have never actually confirmed or denied whether that’s true. Now, Rodrigo’s sophomore album “Guts” is here, and fans once again think she’s targeting a star in some of her lyrics. This time, though, that celeb is none other than Taylor Swift.
The song “The Grudge” is about Rodrigo being unable to forgive someone who wronged her, and some fans are speculating that the song might be about Swift. Rumors of beef between the two stars first began to swirl in 2021, when fans noticed sonic similarities between Rodrigo’s track “Deja Vu” and Swift’s 2019 song “Cruel Summer.” In an April 2021 episode of Rolling Stone’s “The Breakdown,” Rodrigo confirmed that Swift’s song did indeed inspire her own work. “I love ‘Cruel Summer.’ That’s one of my favorite songs ever,” she said. “I love the yell-y vocal in it, the harmonized yells she does. I feel like they’re super electric and moving, so I wanted to do something like that.” Rodrigo also gave Swift a writing credit from the get-go on her song “1 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back,” which interpolates Swift’s “New Year’s Day.”
In July of that year, Rodrigo quietly added Taylor Swift, Jack Antonoff, and St. Vincent — the three writers credited on “Cruel Summer” — to the metadata on “Deja Vu” on Spotify and Tidal. She also retroactively added a writing credit for Hayley Williams and and Joshua Farro to her song “Good 4 U,” which fans had noticed sounded similar to Paramore’s hit “Misery Business.” According to Billboard, the change led to Rodrigo giving up millions in royalties to Swift and Williams and their teams.
Prior to the incident, Swift and Rodrigo appeared to be friends. Rodrigo has spoken about being a longtime Swift fan many times, and after her debut single “Driver’s License” found massive success, Swift sent Rodrigo a handwritten note in celebration. “It’s so nice to be welcomed into the music industry and so great to be supportive of other women,” Rodrigo told Variety of Swift in June of that year. “She wrote me a letter a while ago, and she wrote something about how you make your own luck in the world, and how you treat other people always comes back to you.” That July, Swift’s name was added to the “Deja Vu” credits.
In October of that year, Rodrigo opened up about the “Sour” songwriting credit changes in a Teen Vogue interview, per i-D. “I think it’s disappointing to see people take things out of context and discredit any young woman’s work, but at the end of the day I’m just really proud and happy to say that my job is being a songwriter,” she said. “All music is inspired by each other. Obviously, I write all of my lyrics from my heart and my life first. I came up with the lyrics and the melody for ‘good 4 u’ one morning in the shower. What’s so beautiful about music is that it can be so inspired by music that’s come out in the past,” she continued. “Every single artist is inspired by artists who have come before them. It’s sort of a fun, beautiful sharing process. Nothing in music is ever new. There’s four chords in every song. That’s the fun part — trying to make that your own.”
Since then, fans have speculated that things haven’t been rosy between Swift and Rodrigo. Some fans even suspected that Rodrigo’s song “Vampire,” which was the first single off “Guts,” was about Swift, as it’s a takedown of an extremely manipulative, two-faced person. In an interview with The Guardian, when asked about those rumors, Rodrigo said that she was “very surprised” by them. She also said she doesn’t have any plans to discuss who her songs are about anytime soon. “I never want to say who any of my songs are about. I’ve never done that before in my career and probably won’t,” she said. “I think it’s better to not pigeonhole a song to being about this one thing.”
In “The Grudge,” there are some particular lines that have cued Rodrigo fans into thinking it’s about Swift. “I have nightmares each week ’bout that Friday in May / One phone call from you and my entire world was changed,” she sings, making fans think it might be referencing a call she may have received from Swift’s team about the songwriting credit issue.
On the other hand, while it’s possible that Swift and Rodrigo have issues, there’s also a long tradition of pitting women against each other, particularly in the music industry — and that’s harmful to us all. While there’s no real evidence that “The Grudge” is about Swift, Rodrigo most likely won’t be clearing the issue up anytime soon.